Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Decade Of Work On Press Freedom For Cuba

A Decade Of Work On Press Freedom For Cuba / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on January 28, 2016

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 January 2016 — Journalism is a
high-risk profession. Death threats and imprisonment are just around the
corner for thousands of journalists throughout the world. In Cuba, as an
illustrious writer said, in the last five decades "they haven't killed
journalists because they have killed journalism." One organization
defends the rights of the profession and tries to raise its voice for
those who have been silenced at the microphones and in the national presses.

Ten years ago, a group of independent journalists founded the
Association for Freedom of the Press (APLP) with the initial purpose of
protecting the work of reporters and also to act as an independent news
agency. Looking back, its members are taking stock of what it has
accomplished and looking at the long road that lies ahead.

Jose Antonio Fornaris, APLP president, told 14ymedio that at present the
organization is focused on "learning of and denouncing the problems of
Cuban journalists in the exercise of their profession." The most common
difficulties range from arrests, the confiscation of working tools, and
the little access to sources.

Freedom House, based in Washington, reported last year that Cuba
remains, both regionally and globally, one of the countries with the
greatest restrictions on the press. The organization denounced the fact
that many Cuban journalists continue to be imprisoned and that official
censorship is "widespread." The island ranks last in Latin America with
regards to press freedom.

The Cuban Constitution states that "citizens have freedom of speech and
of the press in accordance with the objectives of socialist society,"
but the editorial line of the national media is governed by the
Department of Revolutionary Orientation (DOR), an arm of the Central
Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Many professionals, both in the independent sphere as well as those
closest to the ruling party, have pushed in recent years for a press
law. This legislation would regulate the activities of journalists and,
in particular, force institutions to provide information of national
interest in a public and transparent way.

Without this legal basis, the work of a reporter in Cuba will continue
to move between self-censorship and danger, as APLP finds every day,
when working to ensure that "in each province there are observers who
are aware of the problems faced by information professionals."
Undoubtedly, these activists for press freedom have a great deal of work
to do to collect every violation against the profession.

It is not enough, therefore, that a group of reporters, such as the
APLP, are willing to raise their voices for others. "The ideal is for
someone who has been harmed to approach us and report their case," says
Fornaris, a first step in order to then get "the corresponding
verifications," and "to provide assistance to the victim," he adds.

Last October, during the 71st General Assembly of the Inter American
Press Association (IAPA), a devastating report on Cuba was presented in
which it is stated that human rights and freedom of the press are
violated "absolutely and systematically" with the State "monopolizing"
the media.

The small team that makes up this NGO tries to optimize its time. Miriam
Herrera is responsible for the committee that attends to the
journalists, while Migiuel Saludes, located in the United States, serves
as the representative abroad; each one of the seven members of the board
is responsible for an area of the NGO's work.

In the APLP "we don't have lifetime tenure," says Fornaris. He says it
with a pained smile in a country where there have not been democratic
elections for seven decades. It is very important for the organization
to break with this fatal flaw, and "this year we are renewing the
mandates." The president sees it clearly, "It would be unacceptable for
us to call for democracy in Cuba and to have a dynasty in our ranks."

His hope of a new morning of greater freedoms does not blind him to the
present. "As long as the press doesn't point the finger at who is
responsible for its faults, nothing happens," Fornaris concludes with
determination. He does not believe that "under the rules of this system
monopolized by a single party can one expect substantial change."

However, what is not in doubt is that "the press must be free, otherwise
it can't be called the press."

Source: A Decade Of Work On Press Freedom For Cuba / 14ymedio, Reinaldo
Escobar | Translating Cuba -

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